Ontario’s outgoing chief medical officer of health to give his last COVID-19 briefing

Ontario’s outgoing chief medical officer of health is set to hold his last COVID-19 briefing Thursday morning, as the province announced it will be moving into the next step of its reopening plan ahead of schedule.

Ontario will proceed into Step 2 of its “Roadmap to Reopen” plan on June 30, two days before it was originally slated to do so. CBC News first reported the news yesterday.

As part of the criteria for moving to Step 2, the province had set vaccination targets of 70 per cent of adults with one dose and 20 per cent fully immunized. Those two measures are now at more than 76 per cent and 29 per cent, respectively — also above the thresholds for Step 3, the final phase.

In a news release, the provincial government also pointed to decreasing numbers of COVID-19 patients being treated in intensive care units. As of Wednesday, there were 305 people with COVID-related illnesses in ICUs, down from more than 450 about two weeks ago.

Step 2 further loosens public health restrictions, with indoor, masked social gatherings of up to five people allowed. Similarly, up to 25 people would be able to attend outdoor functions, while as many as six people could dine together on a patio.

Personal care services like hair stylists and nail salons would also reopen, as long as masks are worn at all times.

Moreover, capacity limits on essential retail will move to 50 per cent, up from 25 per cent in Step 1, while non-essential retail capacity increases to 25 per cent, as opposed to 15 per cent.

Overnight camps can also reopen.

Ontario will likely stay in Step 2 for 21 days as initially intended, the province said, to “allow the most recent vaccinations to reach their full effectiveness and to evaluate any impacts … on key public health and health care indicators.”

This morning, Dr. David Williams will be joined by his successor, Dr. Kieran Moore, at the 10:15 a.m. news conference.

Williams has served in the role since mid-2015.

Moore, who was previously the local medical officer of health for Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington, will officially step into the new job on June 26.

The provincial government says regularly scheduled COVID-19 response updates will move from Mondays and Thursdays to Tuesdays under Moore.

Later today, Premier Doug Ford will get his second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine at a pharmacy in Etobicoke, his office says.

Ontario has continued to offer second shots of AstraZeneca to those who got a first despite the National Advisory Committee on Immunization’s recommendation that they opt for an mRNA vaccine, such as Pfizer or Moderna, instead.

“Premier Ford looks forward to receiving his second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which provides very good protection against COVID-19, including against severe illness and hospitalization,” a spokesperson for his office said in an email.

“All Health Canada approved vaccines available in the province are safe and effective, and we are encouraging Ontarians to get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible.”

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